TOPICS > Politics

Obama to Congress: Vote on Jobs Bill or Find Better Idea

October 6, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT
President Obama called a news conference Thursday where he pressed members of Congress to vote for his jobs package or present a better idea. Judy Woodruff reports.
LISTEN SEE PODCASTS

TRANSCRIPT

JUDY WOODRUFF: President Obama called a news conference today, where he pressed for a vote on his jobs legislation or for opponents to come up with a better idea. Republicans rejected his call, and each side accused the other of putting politics ahead of the nation’s interests.

The president has been touring the country to boost his jobs plan and turn up the heat on Republicans who oppose it. And he brought the same message home to the White House.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: My expectation and hope is that everybody will vote for this jobs bill because it reflects those ideas that traditionally have been supported by both Democrats and Republicans.

If it turns out that there are Republicans who are opposed to this bill, they need to explain to me, but more importantly to their constituencies and the American people, why they’re opposed and what would they do.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The president issued that challenge over and over during a news conference that ran more than an hour. He warned, this is not a game and said Republicans who stonewall his efforts could face an angry electorate next year.

BARACK OBAMA: The question then is: Will Congress do something?

If Congress does something, then I can’t run against a do-nothing Congress. If Congress does nothing, then it’s not a matter of me running against them. I think the American people will run them out of town, because they are frustrated and they know we need to do some — something big and something bold.

I am happy to negotiate with them on a whole host of issues. But right now we’ve got an emergency, and the American people are living that emergency out every single day.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Mr. Obama insisted he’s open to negotiations, but Republican leaders charge that, in fact, he’s already put campaigning ahead of legislating.

House Speaker John Boehner made the point at a Washington forum, suggesting he’d ask this question at the White House news conference.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R-Ohio speaker of the House: Well, Mr. President, why have you given up on the country and decided to campaign full time, instead of doing what the American people sent us all here to do, and that’s to find common ground to deal with the big challenges that face our economy and our country?

JUDY WOODRUFF: The Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, criticized Democrats for proposing a tax on millionaires to pay for the jobs bill, an idea the president said today he could support.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R-Ky. minority leader: So, the real goal here for the Democrats, as far as I can tell, is entirely political. By arguing for a permanent tax hike to pay for a temporary stimulus, they are essentially admitting they’re not particularly interested in creating jobs, because proposing a partisan tax hike 13 months before an election won’t create one single job, not one.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Back at the news conference, the president also voiced concerns about the world economy, especially the European debt crisis.

BARACK OBAMA: The biggest headwind the American economy is facing right now is uncertainty about Europe because it’s affecting global markets.

The slowdown that we’re seeing is not just happening here in the United States. It’s happening everywhere.

And, you know, uncertainty around Greece and their ability to pay their debts, runs on — in the capital markets, on, you know, the debt that many of these Southern European countries have been facing, as well as Ireland and Portugal, all that’s put severe strain on the world financial system.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Mr. Obama also confronted questions about a $500 million federal loan guarantee to Solyndra. The solar panel maker declared bankruptcy last month.

BARACK OBAMA: The overall portfolio has been successful. It has allowed us to help companies, for example, start advanced battery manufacturing here in the United States. It’s helped to create jobs.

There were going to be some companies that did not work out; Solyndra was one of them. But the process by which the decision was made was on the merits. It was straightforward.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The president was also pressed on a Justice Department operation called Fast and Furious. It targeted gunrunning along the U.S.-Mexico border, but it lost track of many of the weapons.

BARACK OBAMA: I have complete confidence in Attorney General Holder in how he handles his office. He’s indicated that he was not aware of what was happening in Fast and Furious. Certainly, I was not. And I think both he and I would have been very unhappy if somebody had suggested that guns were allowed to pass through that could have been prevented by the United States of America.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In the end, though, President Obama said Americans care mainly about jobs and they increasingly doubt that Congress cares. In response, Senate Democrats said they will call a vote on the president’s bill next week.